‘Art of Disaster’ features conversation with writer and artist who are sisters

Rachel Marble

Staff Writer


On Nov. 16, members of the FDU community gathered to celebrate two artists: René and Krista Steinke.
The event took place in the Ferguson Recreation Center and was a conversation between the sisters about their creative processes and influences.

Introductions for the two artists were given by Christina Massa and Samantha Pagliuca, two FDU freshmen. A question-and-answer session for students and faculty followed the conversation.

René Steinke is an FDU professor and director of the MFA in Creative Writing. She is also an established author who has written three books and published many articles and essays over the course of her writing career.

Her novel, “Friendswood,” was named Amazon’s Book of the Month and one of NPR’s “Great Reads” of 2014.

Every two years, the Florham Campus College Writing Program chooses an author or published work that addresses major social topics. College Writing Director Kathryn Douglas said “Friendswood” was chosen “because it touches upon a number of important and rich themes that we wanted to explore with students.”

Krista Steinke, like her sister, is also an artist, but instead of words, she uses photographs and other visuals to express her ideas. Her work has been seen in the Museum of Fine Art in Houston and the Woodmere Museum in Philadelphia, just to name two.

She was awarded a grant from the Puffin Foundation, a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and, most recently, a fellowship from the Howard Foundation. She currently teaches in the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University.

While it might seem like these two topics – visual art and writing – have little in common, both artists draw their inspiration from the same place.

The Steinkes grew up in Friendswood, Texas. It is the namesake of René Steinke’s book and it is a town that has faced its share of environmental problems.

During the event, the sisters discussed how memories and events from their childhood had a large impact on the work they create today.

René Steinke read a passage of “Friendswood” and Krista Steinke showed a slideshow of her photography.

The slideshow focused mainly on her most current project: a series of photos taken after the destruction of Hurricane Harvey. She explained to the audience that she creates her own pinhole cameras, and that after the hurricane she laid them out in her yard to capture the effects of nature.

From the numerous hurricanes that have hit Texas to the Rio super-fund site of their childhood, the Steinkes find a lot of their inspiration from the nature around them. During her speech, René Steinke mentioned how “art asks us to stop and look inward,” and these artists see their art as a way to respond to disaster.

After the event, a reception was held in the second floor of the Monninger Center to unveil the new WAVE Exhibit inspired by “Friendswood.” The art – which is located in the College Writing office – was created by students of Professor Janet O’Neil’s graphic design class.

The students took essays written by a College Writing class taught by April Patrick and used them as inspiration. The works showcase the main themes of “Friendswood,” from sexual assault and substance abuse to environmental responsibility. The exhibit is open to anyone in the FDU community who wishes to come and see “Friendswood.”

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